BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Dozens are requesting better treatment for inmates in the Broome County jail.
More than 50 people stood at its entrance Wednesday. They want the sheriff to address abuse, medical neglect and deaths.
"The people in that facility, 80 percent of them have not been convicted of a crime," said Andrew Pragacz with Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier. "A jail sentence should not be a death sentence. A jail cell should not be a coffin."
Sheriff David Harder says the county does everything it can to care for its inmates, spending $3 million a year. He says they provide around-the-clock medical service.
"The last two inmates who died had terminal diseases before they even came here," said Harder. "I'm not allowed to tell you what they died from, but I'm going to tell you they were going to die no matter where they were."
Earlier this year, the jail completed a $5.5 million expansion. It can now hold up to 600 people, and as of Wednesday morning, Harder said 517 people were incarcerated.
"There's no good carceral facilities, and this jail is particularly bad in the number of deaths that it's had," said Pragacz. "We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the state of New York. This needs to stop. There's better ways to handle our social issues."
"C'mon; what are you going to do with someone who commits a murder?" asked Harder. "Let them go? All we are is a receiving agency. The court decides who comes, not us ... In the meantime, we do the best we can to care for them."
Harder said that the inmates respect the work the corrections officers do. He said last year, inmates filed 300 grievances against the jail, and between three and five went in the inmates' favor.